The best novelists make you believe, as you read, that their stories are real. You hold your breath as Raskolnikov approaches his neighbor with a raised ax. You weep when no one comes to Gatsby’s funeral. And when you realize you are being so well fooled, you love the author all the more for it.
. . . It is important to be comfortable when you’re just a small boy, alone in a big place. He’ll change, but this fact never truly will. He’ll go on, day after day, unsure if he’s all that different from the day before. Later he’ll look back at the things that are happening now and he’ll think they are almost like something he read about.
And for this imperfect immortality, what prices have been paid? . . . How many children deserted, family secrets betrayed, sordid trysts laid out for strangers to see? . . . How many flawed pages burned in disgust and reduced to ashes? How many flawless moments observed from just a slight distance so that, later, we might reduce them to words? All with the unspoken prayer that these hard-won truths might outlast the brief years of our lies.